It's hard to believe it but it's pretty much that time of year again and calving is upon us. However before the real serious business of calving begins now is a good time to take stock and see are you ready for calving 17.
Success or failure at the point of calving is often predetermined by the system and facilities. You need to consider whether you are giving yourself the best chance of success.
The question is not whether you can cope on a good day, but how well your system works under pressure?
No modern farm should be without a calving gate. It's a safer, more useful way to deliver calves particularly in your beef herd where animals are not handled as much as their dairy counterparts. A good calving gate will have a headlock and the opening gate which will allow you to pen the animal and help in getting the first milking out of the cow.
Checking your calving gate is working is a must do, ensure that any ropes or pulleys are sound and working properly.
The 'Jack is the go to tool in the farmer's arsenal. Winch model jacks are the most popular. If your calving ropes are old or frayed get a new set. Its always good to have a spare set on hand in a safe place in case you misplace or lose a pair. The jack is not much use without the ropes.
Ensure that you wash and clean the jack and the ropes after each birth. Wash the calving ropes in hot water and disinfectant.
The breathing mask or aspirator/respirator is a very handy addition to your farming toolbelt. It can help clean fluid from a calves lungs and prevents needless gate hanging of newborns.
As a rule of thumb on my own farm we stomach tube each newborn calf for their first feeding. It ensures that we know the calf has got its first feed and it gives us an opportunity to see the cows colostrum. If you are not sure about stomach tubing you can watch our tutorial here.
The first hour after calving is sometimes referred to as the golden hour and is arguably the most important period in the new born animal's life. The viability of the calf, risk of infection or inadequate passive transfer of immunity (colostrum feeding) are all determined at this time and play a huge role in the long term health and productivity of each calf.
- Don`t forget human safety at this time.
Around calving cows can become aggressive so ensure that you have good restraining gates, an escape route and do not turn your back to the cow. Wear disposable arm length gloves when assisting a calving to reduce your risk of contracting zoonotic diseases (passed from animal to man).
Priorities When Assessing your Calving Facilities:
- Is the environment suitable for a calf?
- Will the calf be clean?
- Will the calf be at risk of injury?
- Is there a risk of mis-mothering or cross suckling?
- Is it quiet?Comfortable? Will it deliver the best chance of a low stress calving?
- Are the facilities adequate to safelyrestrain a cow for investigation or assistance?
- How accessible is your calving equipment and how well is it maintained?